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*Warning: salty language ahead!
“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than hanging on.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
I was a wholehearted forcer.
What does that mean exactly? It means that I had a penchant for hanging on and trying my damndest to control everything that was happening around me and within me. And what happens when we so blatantly ignore the truth when she comes knocking? She breaks the fucking door down.
The skill (and trust me, it’s a skill—a useless one but one nonetheless) I had developed in forcing things to work left me empty. It took everything from me: my dignity, my ability to care of myself, my respect, my gratitude, and my light. It was left wandering around in my own life, living moment to moment, crisis to crisis, heartbreak to heartbreak, and delusion to delusion.
My aha moment came when a friendship ended for me. It wasn’t an ordinary friendship; it was a soul connection, it was someone I had considered family in my heart for years, and when it became clear that two paths that once ran parallel were diverging, my initial instinct was to force them not to.
Pain teaches us so much I am often in awe of it. While it can be excruciating, when we look at it from the perspective of “what is this trying to teach me?” everything changes. It seems simple, but it’s not.
Pain clouds our judgement; it brings the five stages of grief, and we have to master the art of pushing through that to the other side. I say pushing, and it doesn’t feel gentle enough because those stages deserve their time and their place, but pain, when we choose to look at it in all of its often-horrifying rawness, it brings us the personal development we need to live our lives with meaning.
I did try and force things in this situation, and thankfully, despite my lack of self-awareness, it still didn’t work. But when the proverbial dust had settled, it cracked me open to a question, something I had never really asked myself before, “What else am I trying to force?”
I had to write it down; I needed it to stare back at me in black and white. I needed to stew on it, analyze it, dissect it, and understand where in my life I had been forcing things and measure how much unhappiness it was bringing me.
1. I stopped trying to force people to change because I wanted them to.
In my pursuit of my own truth, I discovered that I often want people to meet me where I am. Not the most flattering of truths to realize about yourself, but something I had to come to terms with.
I’m not a fan of the positive self-help movement; I think its often shallow doctrines keep distracting us from ourselves and leave no room for us to confront ourselves on what is and isn’t working.
My expectations of every connection I had meeting me where I was was hurting my ability to connect authentically. It wasn’t up to me to push anything on anyone, and even more powerfully, I realized that if I couldn’t show up where they were, I could excuse myself with grace.
Each situation is unique, as I know we are all aware, and sometimes, we can meet people where they are and sometimes, we simply can’t. Both are more than fucking okay as long as we are always meeting ourselves where we are.
2. I stopped trying to force people to love me.
As a recovered love addict, this was the most destructive pattern I had to face. I have spent over a decade accepting “love”—for want of a better word—that had to be coerced or manipulated into being. I often shrunk myself and tolerated a world of bullshit. It sounds like I am abdicating my own responsibility in this, but trust me, I’m not.
I played a hard forcing game in the name of love, and I lost every single fucking time. My aha moment came when I hated someone I had claimed to love with such venom that I actually scared the shit out of myself. That’s not love; that’s fear of abandonment, that’s lack of self-love, that’s not embracing myself for all that I am and knowing what I deserve.
I wasted years on trying to convince people I was worthy of loving and of sticking around for. I often wish I could get all those years back, but would I have learnt anything if I hadn’t done that? Ah, pain, you beautiful bastard.
I learnt that I never again want a love that tolerates me; I want a love that authentically welcomes me.
3. I stopped trying to force people to heal and become the best versions of themselves.
Right now, the healing game is strong with all of us. I’ve seen more in the healing movement now than I have ever, and how do I know? Because I am constantly fucking bombarded with it on social media. But in my quest for discovering what I was forcing, I realized there were connections I had been trying to force to heal themselves. I didn’t have bad intentions—just misguided ones.
“This is what I have discovered in my healing; it would totally work for you too!”
But just because I am doing my own healing doesn’t mean that everyone else around me needs to, wants to, or is even ready to. Soul work is completely subjective, and people will do the work on themselves when and if they are ready.
Also, maybe today, in this moment, they are the very best of themselves, and that’s okay. My work is my own, as your work is your own, and while we can support each other, when we cross the threshold into forcing, we disrespect each other and the path we are destined to walk in our own time.
4. I stopped trying to force myself to “get over” things.
I recently saw a photograph on social media of my ex and his new girlfriend. He looked happy, and while I don’t get lost now in the farce that is the happiness parade on social media, I felt that familiar pang of sadness. Okay, I cried, like a baby. And then I immediately berated myself for caring after almost five months of no contact and working on picking up the pieces of my broken heart.
I had my pity party for one, and when doing my list, I came to the conclusion that while I have had a beautiful five months of committing to myself and my life, I had been forcing myself to “get over it” and “not think about it,” instead of just feeling it and letting it run its course. I had also quite stupidly assigned a deadline to it.
“Well, it’s been five months now, so I should be fucking over it.”
I’m not, and that’s okay. It still hurts, it still stings, it still makes me sad, and I’ll just keep riding that feeling to the healed part, no deadline, just as much fucking time as is needed. And I comfort myself with the fact that even if it takes a long time, the day will come when it won’t hurt anymore.
5. I stopped trying to force myself to connect with people I don’t have a true connection with.
This one is a hard one; well, I suppose it’s as hard as you make it. I have so many connections in my life, and I can say (with not a shred of arrogance) that most of them I can’t really connect to. It’s not a lack of caring; it’s just a lack of connection, and I found myself forcing these connections because I didn’t want to come across as an asshole.
But these kinds of connections only drain me. They leave me feeling unfulfilled, and my time would be better spent doing something else. Even typing that makes me feel like a little bit of an asshole, but I pulled back.
I stopped spending time with people who weren’t feeding me (and vice versa), and I focused on who I was. While I still grapple with the expectations of showing up for connections that aren’t true, I am learning that I show myself great care and respect when I do this for myself.
Forcing anything in our lives puts us directly on the path of becoming miserable, and while stopping it can be painful at times, when we look at the long-term benefits, they far outweigh that temporary pain.
What are you forcing? Make a list.